“Life on the street in winter is terrible. If you don’t have proper clothing, you’ll freeze to death. One year it was snowing and the temperatures were below zero, and I only had summer clothes to wear. My feet went black – a sure sign they were frostbitten – and one of my big toes had to be amputated.”
Metodi Simeonov, who has lived in Sofia, Bulgaria, all his life, has been homeless for five years. At first, he found shelter in an abandoned building in an electrical sub-station. It kept him dry but it was freezing. He aslo had another problem: finding enough food to eat.
As in South Africa, many of the homeless in Sofia search through rubbish bins to find food – or metal or paper which can be recycled for a few cents. “Hunger is stronger than pride,” Metodi said. “You put up with the situation, bow your head and decide what is more important – your dignity or your survival. There is no easy day on the street, every day is hard – you will either be beaten or robbed. I’ve been robbed many times and that weighs heavily on me. Every day, your life is at risk.”
Like many of the homeless, Metodi is educated and had a good job. He was married and lived with his wife and son. After his son graduated from school, he became addicted to computer games. He became aggressive and angry, creating an unbearable atmosphere at home. Metodi began taking pills to cope with the stress and anxiety. Eventually, he decided to move out for the sake of his mental health. When he lost his job however, he lost his home and found himself out on the street. Metodi has since lost contact with the people from his former life. He says he is ashamed of anyone seeing him in his current situation, and he does not want people thinking he wants favours.
Ever since his father died when he was 20, Metodi learned to rely only on himself. Since becoming homeless, however, he has learned that there is a place where he can receive help without embarrassment. “About five years ago, I met some other homeless people and asked them how they survived. They told me about a place close to the central railway station where some good people give free soup and bread. That is how I found the people from Mission Without Borders. For all these years they have helped me a lot – here I receive not only food but warm clothes and shoes, gloves, a hat and medicine.” “They’re supporting me in every way, and I can feel their friendship as they’re absolutely sincere in what they do.”